Theravada Buddhism is the longest surviving Buddhism tradition, and for many centuries has been the predominant religion of countries such as Sri Lanka, Thailand, Burma and continental Southeast Asia (parts of southwest China, Cambodia, Laos, Malayasia, Indonesia and Vietnam). It is also gaining popularity in Singapore and Australia. It emerged from the split which occurred at The Second Buddhist Council after the passing away of the Buddha. The term Theravada, which literally means “The Way of the Elders”, first appears in writing in the 7th century CE in the school’s own manuscripts and implies that the school attempts to maintain the Buddha’s teachings as authentically as possible. Adherents trace their lineage back to the Sthaviras (Pali: Theras; “Elders”) of the First Buddhist Council when 500 arahants, including Mahakasyapa chose a position of orthodoxy to keep all the “lesser and minor” rules set by Gautama Buddha.
During the reign of Emperor Asoka in India, the third Council was held in Pataliputra (250 BCE). The President of the Council, Moggaliputta Tissa, compiled a book called the Kathavatthu attempting to refute what he saw as the heretical, false views and theories held by some sects. The teaching approved and accepted by this Council was known as Theravada. The Abhidhamma Pitaka was included at this Council. Thus the modern Pali Canon was now essentially completed. It was brought by Venerable Mahinda to Sri Lanka in 246 BCE and was committed to writing in 110 BCE. It is still in use today by Theravadins.